Sick, subversive, unfailingly cool and composed, Wednesday Addams, the precocious and macabre daughter of Gomez and Morticia, is so weirdly charming. From a nameless little girl in Charles Addams’ original illustrations to her latest incarnation – as the main character of her own spinoff – Wednesday has always broken the mold for young girls in the media. We need more Wednesdays – more radical thinkers, more unabashed weirdos, more teenage girls being brave enough to go in different directions. So what can we learn from Wednesday, and how can we channel her weird power?
Sick, subversive, unfailingly cool and composed: not words we usually hear used to describe a prepubescent girl. And yet all of those phrases describe what makes Wednesday Addams, the precocious and macabre daughter of Gomez and Morticia, so weirdly charming. So what is it about Wednesday’s brand of weirdness, iconic attitude and styling that have made her a universal inspiration for counterculture of all ages? And why is now the right time for Tim Burton’s Wednesday spin-off?
Well, from a nameless little girl in Charles Addams’ original illustrations to her latest incarnation – as the main character – Wednesday has always broken the mold for young girls in the media. And right now, especially, she’s a powerful and extremely important character for us to look to, as women’s and girls’ rights come increasingly under threat. We need more Wednesdays – more radical thinkers, more unabashed weirdos, more teenage girls being brave enough to go in different directions
Joy Sunday: “Wednesday’s so iconic because she’s an example of a girl who says, I don’t have to smile for you / She says the things that the rest of us wish we could say.”
So what can we learn from Wednesday, and how can we channel her weird power? Here’s our Take.
Chapter One: How A Weird Star Was Born
Wednesday began as an unnamed character in Charles Addams’ original New Yorker cartoons, which ran over 50 years from 1938 on. In the 60s TV show, she was given the name of Wednesday – as in, the child in the nursery rhyme who’s ‘full of woe’ – but she generally fit the sunny-natured stereotype of a cute little girl in the show. It wasn’t until the film franchise in the 90s – 1991’s The Addams Family and 1993’s sequel, Addams Family Values – that she became the dark, devious and complex character we love.
Wednesday has tended to inspire forward-thinking casting that’s added to her character’s memorability. When Christina Ricci was cast in the 90s films, she was only 10, which was a bold choice when so many characters are played by actresses older than their script age. But it worked – the character came across as eerier still because she was so clearly a little girl. And in the 2022 Netflix show, Wednesday is played by Latina actress Jenna Ortega, a 19 year-old of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent. This makes a lot of sense, given her father Gomez’s Hispanic name, but it has taken almost 60 years of casting for Wednesday and Pugsley to actually be played by Latino actors
Jenna Ortega: “Wednesday is technically a Latina character and that’s never been represented. So for me, any time I have an opportunity to represent my community, I want that to be seen.”
So what’s been the common thread defining Wednesday throughout this evolution? Her weirdness, of course.
In the beginning, Charles Addams designed Wednesday as a nascent version of her mother, Morticia, and the more the character has developed, the more we see the resemblance. Morticia’s own parents even remind her, when she worries about Wednesday, how she was a lot like her daughter as a teenager, too. Wednesday is as shrewd as the narrative’s matriarch, but at the same time, she’s more committed to learning, and pushes herself extensively to further her knowledge without the distractions that her mom has. We learn in the films that she never intends to have a family
Joel: “Do you think, like, maybe someday you might want to get married and have kids?
Wednesday: “No.” -Adams Family Values
So the struggle that Morticia feels, between marriage, parenthood and seeking out the dark forces and joining their hellish crusade, will never be Wednesday’s. This means we have an underlying expectation for Wednesday – that with her more singular mindset, focused only on her evil deeds, she is capable of achieving unparalleled brilliance.
In her various incarnations, Wednesday has become a feminist icon, following in the bold footsteps of her weird and wonderful family, while seeming to encapsulate their unusualness even more than any other individual member. And one of the most feminist aspects of Wednesday’s personality is that she refuses to be limited by her status as a teenage girl. She’s an evil genius and knows she’s smarter than most people she meets – even other evil geniuses, as shown in 2021’s animated Addams Family 2.
Chapter TWO: How Wednesday’s Weirdness Made Her a Role Model
Wednesday gives us permission to tap into a side of ourselves that so many girls and young women are taught to suppress.
She’s unashamedly smart, and honest. And she’s brave – She stands up for herself and her friends when the school bully begins to target them
But she can also be manipulative and mean, cold and calculating. She takes great delight in disturbing her brother Pugsley, for example
Wendseday: “When you have a new baby, one of the other children has to die.”
Pugsley: “Which one?”
Wednesday: “Well, they only need one boy”. -Adams Family Values
These are traits we see in men onscreen more often – and when we do see them in girls, there’s a caveat, or a comeuppance; it’s a problem or a flaw. But not with Wednesday. There’s never any apology… rather, her family celebrates these aspects of her personality.
And that’s because the Addams are a weird family Sure, they might have horrible interests, but they’re also a great family, who show us examples of some really healthy relationships. There’s a lot of love, trust and respect between them all.
Film and TV are full of “black sheep’ characters whose oddnesses aren’t celebrated, and who end up being shunned, or taking the blame for everything that goes wrong for the family. But Wednesday – and her confidence in herself – are very much a product of a family who gets her and doesn’t try to change her. There, her weirdness is normal and special, and they’re very proud of her. And while we might not all be as extreme outsiders as Wednesday, this is the crux of what we all want to feel from our families: that we’re accepted and loved, not in spite of what might be socially abnormal about us, but because of who we are.
It’s hard to overstate how rare it is for a girl like Wednesday, who doesn’t behave politely or nicely or in a “right” way at all, to not be made to feel bad about this. And that’s why Wednesday – and a show starring her – actually feels political. It’s important that we’re given bold young female characters in a moment when women’s rights are being systematically attacked and eroded. We need to raise a next generation of girls who think outside of the lines, stand up for themselves and their loved ones and push back against systems that oppress them – just like Wednesday.
The most important part of Wednesday’s nature is that she refuses to bow to convention. She doesn’t need external validation.
And that rejection of wanting what everyone else wants, and going with the flow, is exactly the kind of energy more of us need to be channeling right now. We need to be brave; we need to get angry; and we need to protect our interests, when no one else will. Weird times call for us to time to tap into our inner Weird Girl – our inner Wednesday.
Wednesday: I’ve always hated the expression ‘write what you know’, but when your life becomes a twisted mystery, maybe it’s time to lean into it. Wednesday.